A MelanieM Review: Manipulation (Diversion #4) by Eden Winters

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Lucky Lucklighter has a new life. His old life wants him back.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]From the jail cell courtesy of a life of crime, complete with drug lord lover, Lucky Lucklighter surfaced with a new life,  a new name and a new career as an agent for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau.  Now Simon “Lucky” Harrison, Lucky even has a new boyfriend and partner,Bo Schollenberger.  Bo Schollenberger arrived at the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau in much the same way as Lucky.  As a pharmaceutical chemist, Bo ended up with a drug addiction and his  illegal deeds brought him to the attention of the head of the Bureau looking for just the right  or wrong type of men for his narcotics team.

Through perseverance and charm, Bo worked his way under Lucky’s defenses and his “I-Get-Along-Fine-Alone” mindset until Lucky starts thinking the unthinkable…that they might just have a future together.

But now Bo is missing.  Their last case involved unexpected ties to bigger crime syndicates, and a voice from Lucky’s past who whispers ““Did you miss me?”

Now Lucky must figure out who is lying and who he can trust?  The voice belonged to someone he was told was dead and now seems very alive.  And there is more to Bo’s absence than people are telling Lucky.  Is Bo missing by choice or by abduction? Every clue, every trail Lucky follows leads him back to the drug Corruption and the syndicate flooding the US markets full of this dangerously addictive drug.   With temptation all around, what won’t Lucky do to find the man he loves and bring him safely home?

Eden Winter’s Diversion series captured my heart from the moment I met Lucky Lucklighter and Bo Schollenberger in Diversion (Diversion #1).  I love complicated wounded men and here were two that not only fell into that category but did so in a way I had never seen before.  There are so many layers to these men.  Lucky’s background is a patchwork of hot cars, adrenaline rushes, and poor choices that led from boosting cars for drag racing to major involvement with a crime lord as employee and lover.  Lucky is  highly intelligent, walled off, and confident, while still leaving space in his heart for his sister, her children, and finally Bo.

Bo Schollenberger. Where to start?  Each book reveals more complications and dimensions to this already convoluted personality.  At first glance and meeting, Bo came across as extremely affable and gentle, a victim of his addiction and circumstances.  A far cry from Lucky and his unrepentant outlook who when given a choice between continuing life behind bars or freedom as an agent chose freedom.  Certainly a choice made from expediency instead of a need to “do right”.  But nothing is as it seems, and the more that Lucky (and the reader) got to know Bo,  the more we realized that Bo has depths and pain to him and his past then he was ready to reveal or deal with.

Oh the joy of discovery.  Each new story and case has uncovered new insights into each man and their past.  Bo and Lucky’s interpersonal dynamics has deepened and expanded along with their relationship.  It’s hot, sexy, at times tender and rough.  You never know from moment to moment what to expect when they get together.  And to their chagrin and our delight, neither do they.  Uncertainty, hesitation, an emotional neediness…all that is new to Lucky and it has contributed to his inability to commit to just about anything.  I love it when a reader can’t predict what the main characters will do in any given situation.  It keeps us on the edge of our seats as the plot swivels and swoops through dangerous highs and deceptively deadly lows.  This is a E Ticket ride in every way.

Eden Winters has also chosen a highly unusual subject and law enforcement agency, in this case the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau,  as the foundation for this series and as professions for Lucky and Bo.  Think hard, how many series and books are developed around pharmaceutical corporations, over/under the counter drugs, and the criminals associated with the shipping and stocking of known medications?  I can only think of one.  Eden Winter’s Diversion series.  That aspect of  this series has been an eye-opener about the giant pharmaceutical corporations, and not in a good way.  More than once it has sent me running to research different elements that have popped up during Lucky and Bo’s cases, ones that left this reader thinking about new issues far into the night.  This series world building is as quirky, complex, and believable as the characters living out their messy lives within it.  I obsess over the characters relationships, the plots, the surprises and then go back and start them over again to see what clues and secrets I missed out the first reading.  And then wait for the next book to arrive.

This story contains quite a few stunning revelations, more layers of deception than ever before and angst by the boatload.  Once started I couldn’t put it down until it was finished…right around 2:45am.  And could I sleep after that? Uh no. Manipulation contains shocks that will shake the foundations of Lucky, and Bo, and even Walter their boss.  Where there had been certainty, now is left nothing but fog and questions.  The narrative is concisely told, the tension and suspense increasingly exponentially until the plot feels as tightly wound as a coiled spring.  It explodes with all the dangerous impact one might expect and the ramifications will still be unfolding right into the  next book in the series, Redemption (which is being written now).

Each year a book from this series has found its way,  deservedly so, onto the Best of lists for Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words and others.  This year is no different.  Manipulation will be high on my Best of 2014 lists, just as I expect Redemption to be there on the list for 2015.  All are highly recommended and Must Reads that should be on everyone’s TBR stack of stories.

If you haven’t discovered this series yet, please, please, don’t start here.  The pleasures and joys that come from the character growth and relationship dynamics is best enjoyed if you start at the beginning and Lucky and Bo’s first meeting in Diversion.  I have a list for you below.  Make it your check list of stories to read. Eden Winters is a remarkable author, and the creator of Lucky and Bo is certain to find her way onto your automatic buy list if she is not there already.

Tag this story and series one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Highly Recommended Must Reads!  Happy Reading!

Cover artist: L.C. Chase.  Terrific cover perfect for the character and story inside.

Sales Links:  Rocky Ridge Books     All Romance (ARe)         amazon           buy it here

Book Details:

ebook,
First Published November 1st 2014 by Rocky Ridge Books
seriesDiversion #4

Books in the Diversion series in the order they were written and should be read:

Diversion (Diversion, #1)
Collusion (Diversion #2)
Corruption (Diversion #3)
Manipulation (Diversion, #4)
Redemption (Diversion, #5) coming in 2015

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review –Third Eye by Rick R. Reed

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Third Eye coverA riveting, nail-biting, thought-provoking, frightening thriller, this story is much more than an M/M romance—it’s a brilliant tale worthy of recognition on the NY Times Bestsellers List.

Cayce D’Amico is just a regular guy raising his seven-year-old son on his own, holding down a job as a waiter at the local diner in the economically-repressed town of Fawcettville, Pennsylvania. He’s young, gay, divorced, and totally focused on his son, Luke. One evening, when he realizes Luke is no longer in his back yard, he sets out to find him just as a thunderstorm hits the area. At the edge of the woods, he’s struck by a broken limb as lightning strikes the tree next to him. Luke is okay, but Cayce isn’t.

Waking in the hospital, he finds it odd that he knows something personal about the aide who touches his arm, and next, he’s struck with images that he soon learns are from a missing girl—one who Cayce can see is dead. It happens again the next day—this time with visions of another kidnap victim. Frightened, but knowing that if it was his son who was missing he’d want help, he goes to the home of the latest victim to offer assistance in finding her but is promptly turned away. Later that night he receives a call from the mother of the first victim, who claims the other mother called her in warning, but that she’s willing to listen to him. The two set out to find the girl, following Cayce’s visions.

Dave Newton is a reporter, if you can call it that in this small town of very little news. A native of England, he followed his lover here years ago—a lover who left him here with only the company of a bottle and a handful of drugs to get by. He’s kicked the drugs but still toys with the booze occasionally—anything to get through the boredom of his life. He’s intrigued by the story of the man who was hit with the limb and when he went to the hospital to say hello, he became even more intrigued by the man himself. Cayce is a nice guy, one who could possibly thaw his heart if he allowed it. It’s Dave who Cayce turns to when he and the mother of the missing girl find her grave. And it’s Dave who offers a shoulder for Cayce to lean on as the story develops, and Cayce is hounded by the press and shunned by the police.

It’s also Dave who supports and assists Cayce as he tries to solve the most important mystery of his life when someone close to him is taken. And when the two rush headlong into an exciting, nail-biting search they get results, just not the results they were looking for.

In this story, the author leads us on an emotional journey fraught with danger and more ups and downs and hairpin turns than an out-of-control eighteen-wheeler. It’s completely different from any of his other works and absolutely brilliant in its execution. Seriously, this ranks right up there with any of the world-renowned mystery writers of our time. The complexity of the storytelling, the attention to detail and the hold-your-breath plotline make this story outstanding. The author keeps the reader on the edge of their seat with flashbacks via Cayce’s visions alternating with scenes of what’s happening in real time to Cayce, and then scenes of the kidnappers and their victims, telling us just enough in each chapter to make the move to the next chapter vital to the reader’s need to breathe. Seriously, this book is very difficult to put down!

The romance in this story is secondary to the major plot with no explicit sex scenes. The attraction between Dave and Cayce develops as more of a true support of one partner for another with some kissing and handholding rather than the hot and heavy sex “on page” that could have been portrayed but would have detracted from the core story.

I can’t recommend this story highly enough. To be honest, I’m not a person who normally reads thrillers, and I never watch horror movies unless I’m forced to do so, and even then I peek through my fingers. I desperately wished I could peek through my fingers at some points in this story, but I was compelled to keep going and I’m so glad I did. The ending was all I had hoped it would be, and the possibility for a happy future for Dave, Cayce, and Luke was set in place. All is well in my world. Don’t miss the chance to read this book.

Caution: This book contains graphic violence and hetero rape with some scenes through flashback and some in real time.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson. Cover depicts a bright light superimposed over the figures of a man and a clock. The light may have been meant to illustrate the visions the man had, and the clock would symbolize time running out. Although I can understand that, I did not find the cover particularly attractive or attention-getting.

Sales Links:               amazon     buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition, 266 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by DSP Publications (first published January 2008)
ISBN139781632163400